Sunday, October 17, 2021

DIY Ukulele Kit!

 Just in time for Christmas or really for any time you want to try your hand at making a musical instrument!  This do-it-yourself soprano ukulele kit is perfect for first timers, and it is only $35!  I have a limited number of these left for purchase, but you can pick yours up now until I run out!  

Everything you need to make your own ukulele is included, though there are a few additions you might want to consider.  What's included?  All the parts, including strings and picks, and even some gloves, sandpaper block, glue, screwdriver, tuning machines, and instructions.  What additions do I suggest?  First off, I have included my own set of revised/additional instructions to go along with the ones that are included because we all know how poorly these things are written by the company.  I also suggest the yellow wood glue (it comes with white), stain instead of the colored paints, some additional fine sandpaper, and some heavy duty rubber bands and/or small clamps.  



How long does it take to build one of these?  How difficult is it?  Well, it's really not all that hard to put it together.  A child will need some help and supervision, but a teenager may only need help with clamping and possibly following some of the directions.  Most adults shouldn't have much of a problem putting this together.  It does take a couple of days to complete, though, because you will have to let the glue dry and set, and you will have to let whatever finish you use (stain or paint) dry before finishing everything up.  It also depends on how fancy you get.  If you just stain it, that won't take you long at all!

Here are some pictures of the one I made.  I stained mine, then spent at least a week painting designs on the front and back.  I used acrylic paints I bought from Walmart.  I used a clear lacquer spray to protect it all when I was done with painting.  I upgraded the tuners because I like the look of closed gear tuners and black buttons over the open gear tuners with white buttons that are included with the kit.  The included tuners work just fine -- it was a cosmetic thing to me.  I also modified the bridge and saddle after I discovered that the ukulele didn't intonate properly.  That is fixed with the additional instructions I wrote that are included with every kit.  You won't have to modify yours if you follow those directions.  Intonation won't be perfect on these, but it is pretty good if you follow the directions.




If you need it shipped, there will be a shipping charge added to your purchase. And one other note, these come in a pink unicorn box.  Sorry about that!  They aren't just for females, but I doubt boys will be as excited about the box as girls.  You may want to repackage!

Monday, January 25, 2021

Chris' 2021 Private Lesson Schedule

 Chris will not be teaching private lessons on the following dates:

 February 8, 9, 10, 11                                

March 1, 2, 3, 4                                                           

April 5, 6, 7, 8                                                              

May 10, 11, 12, 13                                                      

June 14, 15, 16, 17                                                      

July 5, 6, 7, 8, 15                                                               

 August 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19, 23, 24, 25, 26

September 13, 14, 15, 16

October 18, 19, 20, 21

November 22, 23, 24, 25

December 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30

January 2022: 3, 4

It is important that you understand your lesson time is reserved for you.  If you are unable to make a lesson, please me know as soon as possible.  If you miss a lesson, you will be expected to pay for that lesson unless you are sick or have a true emergency.  If you are missing a lesson because of a birthday party, date, prom, school event, vacation, etc., you will be expected to pay for the missed lesson(s). This has always been store policy, but it has not always been strictly enforced.  If you have frequent emergencies or illnesses, we can discuss what the best solution would be.  Sometimes I am able to schedule make-up lessons, in which case you would not have to pay for the missed lesson.


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Making a Fiddle - Day 9

I am making a Strad model, so I had to mark all the blocks where the lining needs to go. This includes depth and length. A razor blade and a small hammer are used to make the initial cuts into the blocks.


I used a very small chisel to clean up the tunnels in the blocks where the lining will go.



Using a super flexible ruler, I measured the distance in between the cuts in the blocks so I would know how long to cut the lining.



After bending the lining, I had to make sure each piece fit snugly into the "tunnels" and against the ribs.


The linings are made from spruce. They have to be bent to fit the curvature of the ribs and also into the blocks. Each piece of lining has to be dipped into water and then bent on the bending iron. I used a small block of wood to help bend the lining pieces.


I needed about 30 clothespins to clamp the lining to the ribs. The clothespins have to be taken apart and put back together again backwards. A heavy rubber band is wrapped around each clothespin to make it stronger.  Rosemary and Emily helped me retrofit all the clothespins!


Hide glue is used on the lining and also on the ribs where the lining will be glued. You have to work fast!


Emily was helping me by holding the form when I was brushing on the glue, and also with the actual clamping.




Using a damp rag, all the excess glue has to be wiped off so the clamps don't stick to the ribs or the mold, and so there is not excess glue everywhere.


Believe it or not, these clamps are so strong some of them took two hands to open them!


Here you can see me readjusting the spacing of the clamps so that there aren't any gaps, especially near the blocks.


This is what it looks like with all the clamps on it!


Here is a closeup of the lining going into the edges of the endblock.


Here is a closeup of the lining going into a corner block. Note how one side goes into the "tunnel," and the other side is just a wedge fit.


Here is the entire form with all the lining done and sanded level with the ribs. Next step is carving the back!

Making a Fiddle - Day 8

I used a chisel to trim down the ribs.  When done correctly, the seam at the corners becomes almost invisible!  I had to be very careful when chiseling the maple.  It is so easy to chip the ribs!  I ended up going at an angle from the top down -- and I didn't go all the way down to the board. I would flip it over and then go the other direction. Then I would work on the middle section, and finish it out with a rasp to get it perfectly level and square.


After trimming the ribs with the chisel, I used a rasp to smooth out and level the edge. It should be perfectly straight.


My sanding board is 16" x 24". It can be made from granite (which is pretty heavy, but flat), or it can be made from a board. I used 5-ply plywood. It took a good two hours to make this completely level! I used planes, scrapers and sandpaper to accomplish this.


I used a long, thick straight edge to check for high and low spots and warping. It has to be level everywhere: top, bottom, sides, and diagonally. After the board is level, I cut large pieces of sandpaper (from sanding belts) to fit the board. I used coarser grain on one side and finer grain on the other side. The sandpaper was attached to the board using spray adhesive.

You can see me using the sanding board in this picture. I am sanding the rib structure on my sanding board. It is important not to press down too hard or the ribs can break. Back and forth and circular motions across all parts of the board are important to keep the rib structure perfectly level. This has to be done on both sides of the rib structure.
Both sides look like this now!
Here is a closeup of two corners.


I still have a long ways to go, but it won't be long and I'll be rid of this mold and start work on the top and back.


Thursday, January 2, 2020

Chris' 2020 Private Lesson Schedule

Chris will not be teaching private lessons on the following dates:

February 10, 11, 12, 13
March 9, 10, 11, 12
April 6, 7, 8, 9
May 25, 26, 27, 28
June 15, 16, 17, 18
July 6, 7, 8, 9
August 10, 11, 12, 13
September 14, 15, 16, 17
October 19, 20, 21, 22
November 23, 24, 25, 26
December 21, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29, 30, 31

It is important that you understand your lesson time is reserved for you.  If you are unable to make a lesson, please me know as soon as possible.  If you miss a lesson, you will be expected to pay for that lesson unless you are sick or have a true emergency.  If you are missing a lesson because of a birthday party, date, prom, school event, vacation, etc., you will be expected to pay for the missed lesson(s). This has always been store policy, but it has not always been strictly enforced.  If you have frequent emergencies or illnesses, we can discuss what the best solution would be.  Sometimes I am able to schedule make-up lessons, in which case you would not have to pay for the missed lesson.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Making a Fiddle - Day 7

This day made a big difference in how my fiddle looks.  It is actually starting to look like a fiddle!  I have all the ribs glued to the blocks now.  Here are the steps I completed this day.

I started by deciding which way I wanted the flaming on the wood to go.  The flames on my ribs are slightly angled, so I decided to make all the flames angle back towards the bottom (end block area) of the fiddle.  I marked the ribs lightly in pencil with LL (lower left), LR (lower right), UL (upper left) and UR (upper right).  I also drew arrows that faced the endblock (lower ribs), and the neck block (upper ribs).  Then I started measuring and cutting the length of the ribs.  I marked the center of the upper and lower blocks.  I used a very flexible, clear ruler for measuring.  It conforms to all the curves so I could get a very accurate measurement.  I added a little bit of length to the measurements so that the ribs would extend beyond the corners.  (They will be trimmed later, but this makes for an almost invisible corner joint.)





The lower ribs have to fit perfectly so that there will not be a gap at the endblock.  I used the square and a file to get this correct.  After the lower ribs are bent, the ends are glued together, taped and clamped with a counter block.  (I'll explain counter blocks in more details later on in this entry.)  This keeps the fit perfect when you clamp the ribs to the endblock.





To bend the ribs, I first had to dip the ribs in a small bucket of water.  Then I used the rib bender and sometimes the bending strap.  I personally prefer not to the use the strap because I can't feel when the wood starts to "give."  When the wood starts to give, it can be bent without it cracking or breaking (but sometimes it does anyway).  Sometimes it was necessary for me to use the bending strap because the wood needed the support on certain curves, or because I needed to work so close to my fingers that the heat and steam would have burned me.  I kept the mold nearby so that I could keep checking to see if I was making the curves correctly.  The ribs have to fit the mold and blocks with no gaps.  It was a little tedious, but not too bad.  I had to constantly look to make sure I wasn't bending a rib upside-down or backwards.  The arrows and markings that I penciled onto the ribs were very helpful for this.





After all the ribs were bent, it was time to glue the ribs to the blocks.  This is where the counter blocks come into play.  Counter blocks are small blocks of wood that are used to clamp the ribs to the blocks.  They fit perfectly into the curves of the fiddle ribs and give you something to clamp the ribs against.  If you label all your counter blocks after you make them, it makes it easier to know which ones are for which curves.  (Notice the "UL" that is visible on the end of one of the counter blocks in the picture below.  All of these blocks are labelled, but for some reason, only one label happened to be facing up so that it was visible in my picture.)


First, I positioned one rib where it would be glued.  I used a pencil to mark on the rib where the blocks were.  This shows me where I will be putting the glue.  The ribs are only glued to the blocks and not to the mold itself.  It is a good idea to wax the edges of the mold so that any stray glue will not adhere to the ribs.  I got my counter blocks and my clamps ready.  I put hide glue on the block and also on the rib, then I positioned it and clamped it.  This has to be done on a flat surface.  I used a large piece of safety glass.  The ribs stay in contact with the glass, which keeps everything perfectly level and flat on the bottom.  Having another person to help when you are gluing and clamping the ribs is a very good idea!  This makes it so much easier to hold things in place and clamp at the same time.  After the clamp is in place, I wiped off the excess glue with a damp cloth.  I did this as I clamped each rib rather than waiting until I was done with all of them. Hide glue sets pretty quickly.


It is important to make sure the clamps are positioned in the center of the counter blocks so that pressure is applied evenly to the rib and there are no gaps.  After all the clamps are in place, I picked up the mold and wiped off excess glue from the bottom of the ribs and blocks.  This is what it looked like with all the clamps in place.


This is what it looks like after I removed the clamps.



It won't be long and I'll be starting on the top and back!  Yay!